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Virginia Railway Express

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Daily ridership
17,500 (Q1 2016)


Reporting marks


Number of lines

Transit type
Regional rail

Annual ridership
4,374,000 (2015)


System length
90 mi (145 km)

Began operation

Number of stations
19 (1 planned)

Northern Virginia

Virginia Railway Express httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediaenthumbc

Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, Northern Virginia Transportation Commission

Metro virginia railway express 9 16 16

The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) (reporting mark VREX) is a regional/commuter rail service that connects the Northern Virginia suburbs to Union Station in Washington, D.C., via two lines: the Fredericksburg Line from Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the Manassas Line from Broad Run/Airport station in Bristow, Virginia.


Service to Manassas began on June 22, 1992; the Fredericksburg service started on July 20, 1992.

VRE is owned by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission. The NVTC and PRTC are governmental entities that were created by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Local governments (such as counties and cities) within each commission's geographic area are members of each commission.

Amtrack virginia railway express train manassas


Discussions about commuter rail service in Northern Virginia had occurred as early as 1964 at the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, but died in the face of opposition by the freight railroads whose tracks offered ready access to core employment areas. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments eventually commissioned a regional feasibility study by R.L. Banks and Associates, Inc., and planning began in earnest for VRE in 1984.

By 1986, it became apparent that the jurisdictions outside of NVTC could not reach agreement on how to support VRE by joining NVTC so the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission was created for Prince William and Stafford counties and the city of Manassas. Legislation established a 2% motor fuels tax to support VRE expenses and other transportation investments.

By 1988, NVTC and PRTC established a VRE Operations Board, consisting of three voting members plus alternates from each of the two commissions, plus a voting representative of the Commonwealth of Virginia (currently a representative of the Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation). The following year, the jurisdictions participating in the VRE project agreed to fund it according to a formula that weighted ridership by jurisdiction of residence with a factor of 90% and population with a factor of 10%. Arlington and Alexandria agreed to contribute to the project and have paid each year approximately what their formula share would be. The cities of Fredericksburg and Manassas Park joined PRTC in 1990 and signed the VRE Master Agreement and became participating jurisdictions in 1992.

Spotsylvania County joined in February 2010 to allow construction of Spotsylvania station, which opened in November 2015.


Rail service operates Monday through Friday only and is suspended or reduced on some holidays.

Through a cross-honoring agreement, VRE and the MARC Train allow passengers to transfer to trains on the other system that are going in the opposite direction of the rush-hour commuters.

VRE operates on lines owned and maintained by Amtrak, Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation. Most of the Fredericksburg Line is on CSX tracks, while the portion of the Manassas Line west of Alexandria is mostly on Norfolk Southern tracks. Union Station in Washington, DC, which is the northern terminus for most VRE trains, is owned and operated by Amtrak, including the station tracks.

VRE's trains were initially run by Amtrak. On November 5, 2009, VRE awarded a five-year, $85 million operating and maintenance contract to Keolis, a subsidiary of France's national railway. The change in operations took place on July 12, 2010, two weeks later than planned, to allow Keolis employees to learn how to run VRE trains.

Ridership on VRE increased an average of 13% each year from 2000 to 2005, but fell 2% in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2005. VRE said passengers affected by track maintenance and heat restrictions were taking other forms of transportation. The trend reversed in the summer of 2007, with ridership up nearly 2% in June and 4% in July compared with the corresponding months in 2006. As of October 2016, VRE transports an average of 19,400 passengers per day.

In 2015, VRE extended its contract with Keolis for five years, with an additional option for another five-year extension in 2020.

Lines and stations

VRE's fares are based on distance, with the 19 stations grouped into zones.

Fredericksburg Line

The Fredericksburg Line runs north–south along trackage owned by CSX, formerly the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad. Amtrak service to Richmond, Virginia, and points south also uses this line. An extension to Spotsylvania opened in November 2015.

Manassas Line

The Manassas Line runs east–west along trackage owned by Norfolk Southern. Three Amtrak trains, the Crescent, Cardinal, and Northeast Regional, also use this line. VRE studied an extension of the Manassas Line west to the communities of Gainesville and Haymarket, but chose instead to pursue added service on the existing line to Broad Run.

Haymarket Line

Starting in 2015, VRE began a study of extending Manassas Line service to Haymarket, but found that ridership would not sufficiently increase to justify the estimated $660 million cost and ended further consideration of the line.


The Virginia Railway Express commenced operations in 1992 with ten EMD RP39-2C diesel locomotives, 38 Mafersa coaches, and 21 remanufactured Budd Rail Diesel Car (RDCs) from the MBTA. Morrison-Knudsen rebuilt the locomotives from EMD GP40s at a total cost of $5.9 million. Mafersa built the coaches new at $24.7 million, or $600,000–$700,000 per car. VRE sold 33 of the Mafersa coaches to the Connecticut Department of Transportation in 2004 for its Shore Line East service. QIT-Fer et Titane, a Quebec mining company, purchased the remaining five cars in 2008.

Locomotive fleet

VRE operated a pair of EMD F59PHI locomotives and 18 high capacity bi-level cars on lease from Sound Transit in 2003 until 2006; they have since been returned and replaced by the MPI locomotives and the Sumitomo bi-level cars.

Coach fleet

(* with restroom)

VRE used to operate Kawasaki units, however in 2008, all 13 were sold to neighboring service MARC Train.


On January 5, 2006, at 6:45 am, Fredericksburg line train No. 304 bound for Washington, D.C. derailed at Possum Point, just north of the Quantico section of Prince William County. Four people, including the assistant conductor, suffered minor injuries and were treated and released by medical personnel. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the derailment was likely caused by an excessively worn and chipped switch point, which caused the lead truck of the fourth passenger car to derail. CSX failed to replace the switch point even after it had been repeatedly identified as deteriorating.

On October 3, 2012, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell launched a review of "multiple internal control issues", including reports of corruption and favoritism, that "call into question the management of the Virginia Railway Express". For example, VRE managers disregarded warnings by a former employee, later borne out, that a train would hit the new Broad Run platform.

On January 15, 2014, a pedestrian, Danyelle Lynn Anderson, was struck and killed by a commuter train as she walked on the Manassas line near Burke in Fairfax County.

On February 26, 2014, a pedestrian, 15-year-old Jack Chen, was struck and killed by a commuter train as he walked on the Manassas line near Burke Center in Fairfax County.


Virginia Railway Express Wikipedia

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